Advice: Don’t fall victim to pension scams

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey

Q: I’m 53 years old and have a personal pension. I have received several cold calls offering me pension advice and advising me to act immediately. I have heard many people have fallen victim to scams, so how do I know who to trust and where can I go for help?

A: Pension scams are dangerous and can rob you of your pension pot. If someone contacts you unexpectedly and says they can help you access your pension pot before the age of 55 it’s likely to be a scam.

The current age for accessing your pension is 55 and only under rare circumstances, such as ill-health, can it be accessed any earlier.

There are a several tell-tale signs that you need to watch out for if you are worried about being scammed. In particular you should watch out for unexpected contact by phone, text message or in person by an individual or company advising you that you can access your pension before 55. They may also encourage you to take out a large lump sum from your pension or the whole pot itself and let them invest it for you. You should look out for words and phrases such as “pension liberation”, “free pension review” and “one-off investment” as these are often used by fraudsters. They may also encourage you to act quickly so you don’t miss out, but this type of pressuring is a typical tactic used by scammers.

Always contact your provider directly if you have any questions or if you receive any correspondence from them by letter or email saying they have changed their bank details and want you to make payments into a new account as this is almost always a scam.

If you think you have been the victim of a pension scam call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

If you wish to discuss your pension options in confidence you can use the government’s Pension Wise service available at Citizens Advice Newtownabbey. Pension wise offers free, impartial guidance for those thinking of accessing their pensions. Face to face appointments are available to those aged over 50 with a defined contribution pension. The appointment covers the different ways you can take money from your pot, what each option might mean for your circumstances and next steps on where to go for further information.

For more information or to book a Pension Wise appointment at Citizens Advice Newtownabbey call 028 9085 2069.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm), email advice is available at enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk